Parmesan cheese, also known as Parmigiano Reggiano, is a sharp and umami-rich hard cheese with a granular texture made from cow’s milk. Original parmesan only comes from a small, specific region in Northern Italy and has been made with the same components and in the same place since the middle ages. People have grown to like the cheese and put it on everything. Most people prefer it grated over pasta, or melted on bread, or mixed into sauces. Food prepared benefits from a little bit of parmesan cheese, especially if it is legit.
Across the world, people can find other hard, white grating cheeses all labeled “Parmesan.” For instance, in the United States, one can find shelf-stable cheese granules, grated cheese, and shredded cheese in cans labeled “Parmesan.” But these types of caned cheeses on shelves are never the real deal and don’t offer much in terms of flavor. To get the legit Parmigiano Reggiano, a unique process must be followed, and this process is often heavily regulated.
Cost of Parmesan Cheese
The process can only be successful in the specific region of Northern Italy called Emilia Romagna. The region is where Parma and Reggio Emilia cities can be located, and these places give the cheese its name. But the reason why the Emilia Romagna region is the only place Parmesan cheese can be made all comes down to specific bacteria.
The bacteria, in this case, help in the fermentation of legit parmesan cheese and can only grow in Emilia Romagna. Due to this, it is physically not possible to create this cheese in its true form anywhere else. There are currently only 329 dairies in the world that can make Parmesan cheese that comes at a heavy price tag. When Parmesan is ready, one full wheel of the cheese can cost over $1,000. A small chunk of the cheese costs anywhere between $12 and $24.
How to Prepare Parmesan
Back in the middle ages, Monks provided a way to make Parmesan, and people have followed their recipes to this day. Only salt, milk, and rennet are used to make parmesan cheese. Around 140 gallons of milk can be used to make one 88-pound wheel of parmesan from grass-fed cows. When workers want to make a wheel, they mix the salt, milk, and rennet and separate them into curds. They cook the cheese for 5 minutes to kill bad bacteria and separate the water, forming it into a wheel. To create the wheel, multiple workers and a linen cloth get involved. The workers have to lift the cheese out of the liquid and transfer it to molds.
Classic Parmigiano Reggiano
When the cheese forms its classic wheel shape, workers brine it in salt water for around three weeks. After this stage is complete, they move the cheese to a room with thousands of other wheels, where it will age for at least one year. All the while, the workers turn the cheese and clean it and also maintain it. When the twelve months pass, a cheese grader from the regulations industry makes sure the cheese is up to standards, looking for imperfections and cracks. If the cheese is okay, it gets a literal stamp of approval with a stencil to create the classic Parmigiano Reggiano rind. But if the cheese has cracks, it doesn’t receive the stamp and workers sell it as substandard Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Because preparing Parmesan requires significantly more milk than other cheese, the price of the final product is significantly higher. Additionally, as with any product that matures slowly, the price of Parmesan is commensurate with the stage of its maturity. Lastly, because the manufacturing process for Parmesan still uses certain traditional methods, the price for the end product is high.
Each year the Parmesan business produces an average of 3.6 million wheels. Fast-food chains are the worlds leading consumers of parmesan cheese. The industry is worth an eye-popping $2.5 billion. Because of the healthy growth rate of the fast-food industry, parmesan cheese is the biggest export for Italy. With the continuous developments, experts expect the consumption rate of cheese to increase by 50 or 60 percent soon.